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Jerez WorldSBK test: 'Lap times came quite easily' - Haslam

Even if it was a wet start to the public WorldSBK duties of both Leon Haslam and his all new Honda Fireblade it was a successful one in their first all-out test against their 2020 competition.

Fastest of all, despite several changes in the order, Haslam and his new bike ended up just ahead of two chasing Yamahas and all the rest. Astounding, to the rest of the world at least, even if the wet conditions as a leveller are discounted.

“We did not push so hard but the lap time came quite easily. We did three five lap runs. We had some areas we wanted to try that we could try in the wet weather. Every time out is was different,” Haslam told bikesportnews.com at the track.


“From cold and wet to half drying to full rain. It was OK and to finish P1 is really nice. The main thing is that we got some laps in the rain with the Honda, our first laps, and the laps times came quite nice and easy – and we managed to try a few things at the same time. So it was very positive. First time in the wet.”

After the initial private winter tests in Aragon and Portimao, and rumours about lap times, Haslam said, “Honestly it has been really positive. I have a really good feeling with the bike. To be part of the whole project is super-exciting. It is like anything to be part of this, with so much to try, and we want to get going, and get some dry laps to get through all the items we have… but so far, so good.”

Normally when you have any new bike or new bike you go to, the wet weather normally highlights all the issues, throttle connection, engine braking, whatever. I think my out lap this morning went P1 straight away. Honestly, my feeling was good from the very first lap. To only do 14 laps and be quicker than some of the guys that did probably 40 or 50, shows already that the base is already really strong.”

Haslam confirmed that his new and heavily-oversquare Honda engine is a different unit from the longer stroke Kawasaki one from 2019.

“The engine definitely has a different characteristic, and getting used to the way of the delivery is the main key,” he stated. “Nowadays with these engines you can make them feel how you want, but initially you have to have the power there. For sure it has the power so it is all about fine tuning and getting the feeling from the bike.”

Previous Honda FireBlade experiences, of which Haslam has lots from both WorldSBK and BSB, seem too long ago and far away in tech for Haslam to draw any real comparisons with 2020’s new HRC tackle.

This bike is completely new and that was six years ago. We were on different electronics, learning electronics with Cosworth trying to introduce engine braking and traction control.

“Now it is for sure a full racebike with HRC electronics, so it is completely different. Honda has always had a good chassis and many good areas of the bike, where now for me it is putting all the areas together, and this is why it is so exciting. In one word I can describe it as ‘exciting’. For the potential of the bike and the whole project it is very exciting.”

Old friend and 2019 team-mate Jonathan Rea apparently came to see Haslam and his new bike in the morning? “Yes, we have been joking over the last few weeks, trying to find a lot of information out, but honestly when someone like HRC comes back into any championship I think it creates a lot of good exposure and publicity,” said Haslam. “I am very confident and happy to be part of the project.”

How Haslam, out from his supposed dream Kawasaki full factory ride to make way for Alex Lowes in 2020, got such a seemingly plum job has elements of simple fortune and understanding of Leon as a pure racing end development package.

“For me it was not a clear thing,” said Haslam. “They approached me and from my point of view it is a new project and the experience that I have, coming off the Kawasaki that won the championship, it is probably the reason why they have chosen me. I can still make wins and podiums and as soon as I got on this bike and this project I felt so good. It is an exciting prospect. If you put all the options on the table in this championship and I had the choice of every ride, I would choose this one right now. For me I am very happy.”


When asked if he felt more natural on this new bike, more like he and his riding style wanted, Haslam said, “Any bike you can adapt to your natural style. The problem that I struggled with last year was coming back into the World Championship after three years away, not knowing the electronics, and getting on a bike that specifically had to be ridden a certain way, by a certain person, so forever I was adapting my style and never adapting the bike to me.

“For me this project already I have forgotten all of that and I am riding how I want to and we are fast. The team and the bike we are coming together as one, that is why I am so happy.”

So even from this far out, and with more Jerez tests, a Portimao track session looming and then a Phillip Island official test before the points become available in Australia, is a podium possible, at PI on this bike? Haslam sure likes it there, after all

“Always. We do not go there to not win and this is always the target. I am really surprised how everything is coming together. We have so many things to look forward to and try. We have not really bothered looking at a one off lap time or trying different tyres, all the normal things that would make you fast, we have a lot of areas we are working on. For me it is step-by-step but so far so good.”

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